Joining a bipartisan coalition of 11 attorneys general, Attorney General Hector Balderas today expressed his strong opposition to the National Park Service’s (NPS) proposal to dramatically increase entrance fees at 17 national parks. Under the proposal, the per vehicle entrance fee during the five-month peak season would increase to $70 from $25 or $30. Motorcycle, bicycle and pedestrian entrance fees would also increase by double or more.
“New Mexican families deserve affordable access to our national parks and my office will continue to work to protect their ability to enjoy the health benefits that come with spending time outdoors,” said Attorney General Hector Balderas. “These proposed fee increases will disproportionally impact families who are already struggling to make ends meet, and will also do harm to fragile rural economies that depend on vital tourism dollars from our national parks.”
In their comment letter to the NPS, Attorney General Balderas and his fellow attorneys general make three main points:
· NPS’s stated justification for the fee increase is to address the serious maintenance backlog facing the national park system. However, the proposal could well reduce revenue by lowering visitation rates, and it comes at the same time that the Trump Administration is proposing the cut NPS’s budget by far more than any increased fees might generate;
· NPS has failed to consider or provide any data to support the criteria it must consider pursuant to the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act of 2004, including the “aggregate effect of recreation fees on recreation users” or “the public policy or management objectives served by the recreation fee”;
· NPS’s Washington-centric approach, announcing the proposed fees for 17 parks without any detailed analysis or prior outreach to impacted communities and setting a short comment period that includes major holidays, is designed to minimize input from the American public to whom the national parks belong.
Joining Attorney General Balderas in sending today’s comment letter were the Attorneys General of Arizona, California, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia.